The SPA staff attending a team building day

Celebrating the achievements of staff within the Sport & Physical Activity Service

In 2020, the Sport & Physical Activity Service (SPA) celebrated the hard work of all team members at its very first stand-alone staff away day. The day highlighted the significant impact and contribution made by SPA staff towards the service’s success.

A working group was established to organise the away day and comprised of a mix of colleagues from various departments within SPA to ensure the activities reached out to everyone. The group gathered feedback and suggestions from colleagues, asking teammates what they would like to see as part of their away day, all of which provided valuable insight into creating an engaging itinerary for the day.

The away day comprised of three clear sections which brought all colleagues together to participate in staff recognition, discussion and team games:

  • A staff awards ceremony celebrated the work of all outstanding staff nominated and voted for by fellow colleagues within SPA. Following a robust nomination, shortlisting and voting process, the winners were announced on the away day.
  • The senior management team shared key highlights for SPA over the past 12 months followed by interactive group workshops and an inspiring talk by an external guest speaker.
  • Team games facilitated by an external company were hugely successful and ignited engagement amongst the attendees. The success of this was attributed to extensive planning and consultation that took place with colleagues that enabled everyone to contribute their ideas and take ownership of their away day.

The away day was a big accomplishment, and it was made clear by the attendance figures. More than 80 people attended, and everyone took full part in the activities feeding back that they thoroughly enjoyed the day. There were many award nominations of colleagues voting for each other and expressing kind words about their hard work and commitment to the service. The guest speaker and company running the team games also commented on how much they’d enjoyed working with SPA and how nice it was to see all co-workers having fun and working together as a team.

At Christmas, when staff were asked to share their favourite memories of working for SPA in 2020, many said the away day was one of their best moments!

Staff feedback:

“It has made me more confident in my own leadership abilities and has given me a confidence boost. It also cheered me up, I had a great day!”

“The day made me realise that when people are engaged they communicate much better and feel good. Working together to achieve is a great feeling.”

“Made me feel enthusiastic about working within SPA, I feel more part of the team and as a new member of staff feel valued for my work. I look forward to working within SPA in the future.”

Read about our customer focussed services, 2020 to 2021

A member of the Edge staff cleaning the gym equipment

Adapting for re-opening: creating a safe environment and building confidence

Following the first national lockdown due to Covid 19, the sport and leisure world had to change to safely re-open its doors when restrictions were lifted, following government, university and industry guidance.

Early in the process, the Sport & Physical Activity Service (SPA) team recognised the importance of not only being fully compliant and adhering to strict safety measures, but also of going above and beyond to reassure staff and customers. The team wanted to give customers the confidence to return to sport and enable them to do so in the easiest and most convenient way possible.

A small team of SPA management continued to work together full time throughout the Summer, creating a thorough re-entry plan. As part of this work, the team attended numerous webinars led by industry leaders and governing bodies and then translated the guidance into processes and new ways of working.

The changes proposed by the team were channelled through a robust approvals process. Once all the changes were approved, the challenge to re-engage staff began with the delivery of training and competency assessments on the process changes as the team prepared for re-opening.

Important communication updates on the changes were provided to customers before they were able to access facilities through various platforms including individual contact, member updates and social media. A significant change is the advance booking required for all customers to access sports facilities. To help facilitate this change, the team came up with online timetables which give customers the necessary ease and freedom to make and amend activity bookings.

Ahead of the doors re-opening, high-quality customer information videos were created to reiterate all the actions taken to ensure a COVID 19 secure environment, which involved liaising with marketing, communication, and wider university colleagues.

The hard work paid off! The SPA team succeeded in demonstrating that the necessary standards had been met and received approval from the university’s Health and Safety to re-open facilities. The assessors commented that the measures put in place by the team went above and beyond the required standards.

The success of the approach to re-engaging staff was made apparent through comments made in the online FAQ forum on completion of staff training, in which individuals thanked the team for putting them at ease about returning to work.

Shortly after re-opening, the Operations and Sales/Marketing teams worked together to deliver several online customer forums, where customers were asked for feedback about the re-entry process. These included questions relating to safety, ease of access, communication methods and quality/relevance of programmes being delivered.

Securing the support of staff has played a significant part in the successful re-opening of facilities for customers. The team were praised in the customer forums for making facilities safe and helping customers feel comfortable.

Throughout the entire process, the SPA team has been ready and willing to adapt to change whenever necessary. Whether this be due to government changes issued overnight, or changes to timings of activities following customer feedback. As a result, the team has succeeded in delivering a phased return and setting a precedent for the future.

Read about our customer focussed services, 2020 to 2021

A photo of the Leeds University Women's Rugby team playing a game

Working in partnership to support our student sports clubs

The Sport & Physical Activity Service (SPA) has worked in partnership with Leeds University Union (LUU) to support university sports clubs in providing vital sport and physical activities throughout the covid 19 pandemic.

With the gradual easing of restrictions following the first national lockdown in 2020, one of the key challenges facing the sports industry was the pace at which different national sports governing bodies were able to interpret and communicate the ‘return to play’ government guidance.

SPA and LUU were faced with the challenge of simultaneously re-opening facilities whilst interpreting different sporting guidelines to best support the 70 different student clubs in their return to activity. An early decision was made to engage with student club committee members throughout the process to ensure transparency, clear communication and collective decision making.

Working together, colleagues from SPA and LUU established a clear set of principles to shape decision-making from the onset: safety as a priority, a strict adherence to national governing body guidelines, putting students first (over any community or commercial bookings), being inclusive, and a willingness to make difficult decisions.

Based on these principles, since September 2020 SPA and LUU have adopted several key approaches:

  • Establish clear facility programming principles, maximising access for different student groups.
  • Engage with key industry bodies, such as Sport England UK, to develop a clear understanding of the information available and build confidence in interpreting and communicating it.
  • Establish a clear understanding and process for the production and consideration of sports-specific COVID 19 risk assessments, including the introduction of a training programme for newly recruited sports club COVID 19 officers.
  • Use feedback from student groups and the information available to develop a programme of COVID 19 safe activities, enabling student clubs to provide important sport and physical activities for their members.
  • Confirm what funding is available to student clubs via the Gryphon Club Fund.
  • Work with the university senior team to provide reassurance on the COVID 19 safe approach to the return of sport and communicate any key exemptions.

The effective use of virtual meeting platforms to bring together large groups of students has been a key factor in enabling the safe provision of sport and physical activities. Since September 2020, eight online ‘Safe Return to Sport’ webinars have been developed and have successfully engaged over 200 student club committee members. The webinars provide clear and timely information, seek feedback through two-way conversations, and provide a safe space for clubs to ask questions. In addition, a COVID 19 Officer online training programme has been developed and delivered to over 80 students.

In line with the principle of ‘students first’, SPA and LUU demonstrate an absolute commitment to prioritising student sport over any other user group. When facilities were reopened for student club access in October 2020, any indoor space (other than that being used by the NHS) was made available to students.

As a result of listening to feedback from committee members about what other support/programmes their members would benefit from, SPA and LUU have delivered additional Mental Health in Sport Workshops and are creating a bespoke first aid training package for students.

SPA and LUU have supported the production of 40 COVID 19 risk assessments since October 2020, working with sports clubs who wish to access university facilities to ensure that each risk assessment is compliant with the respective national governing body guidance.

Together, SPA and LUU have fostered a readiness amongst the senior team to permit access for sports clubs to facility space. As national government guidance evolves, the partnership is working to modify the key approaches and continue to deliver an enriching and engaging experience for around 6500 student members of the various sports clubs.

Read about our customer focussed services, 2020 to 2021